In Florida on vacation, 
our kids pranced on an old pier,
fishing poles in hand.
“Maybe we’ll snag some Whiting!

None of us caught anything.
We tried up and down the pier
in all the deepest parts, 
never the shallow end.

Came a hearty, old man, faded overalls,
a once white, dirty t-shirt,
long, silver, greasy hair,
a big burlap bag over his shoulder.

The old man went straight to the first pylon, 
poured out some fish bait
from the bag he placed on the pier,
pulled out a rope with a hook on the end.

Below, crystal clear water.
Stuck a piece of fish on the hook,
dropped the rope down 
the side of the pylon.

Snap, an immediate lurch.
Dragged up a big, beautiful
black and white striped fish,
wiggled as he threw it in the bag.

Another piece of bait on the hook,
another huge fish lashing the pole,
into the bag, into the bag,
fish after flopping fish. 

Everyone stopped fishing. 
Someone whispered: 
“Look at that!”
“What kind of fish is that?”

Only one among us knew
about the strange fish. 
“Them’s sheepsheads.
Good eatin’.”

Into the bag, 
into the bag, 
as if he were alone,
the old man did not look at us.

He only saw the fish
and the expanding bag,
flopping around on the pier
beside his holey shoes.

He stopped,
his bait gone, 
swung the wriggling,
bulging bag onto his old shoulders.

A Hemingway look-alike,
conqueror of the sea, 
he strode away,
an old man headed for a sale.

Originally published in Ariel Chart